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Latest coronavirus news for April 8, 2020: ‘He had to die alone’

Here’s what we know happened today about the continuing spread of coronavirus and its ripple effects in Chicago and Illinois.

Another 82 people have died from the coronavirus in Illinois as the state continues its path towards a peak, with Wednesday marking the largest number of deaths in a 24-hour period and the highest number of new positive cases: 1,529.

Around Chicago and the state, residents, medical professionals and government and public health officials continued to grapple with the coronavirus pandemic. Here’s what happened around the state as the battle waged on.

News

8:58 p.m. He was a husband, father, grandfather and great-grandfather: ‘That he had to die alone just breaks our hearts’

Janice and James Quigley with all of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren on Christmas Eve 2018. 
Janice and James Quigley with all of their grandchildren and great-grandchildren on Christmas Eve 2018.
Provided.

On Thursday, Janice Quigley plans to bury her husband, James, 77, who died from the virus on March 27, just a week after being taken to Advocate Trinity Hospital by ambulance.

“The last time I saw him I knocked on the ambulance door to ask if I could follow him,” she said.

The answer was no, and that was that.

After 56 years of marriage that saw the couple raise six children in Annunciata Parish on the city’s Southeast Side, Janice and James Quigley would have no opportunity to console each other in his final days.

No last squeezing of the hand or kiss on the forehead. No last look into each other’s eyes.

For most people, the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has been at worst an economic crisis, a massive disruption of lifestyle and personal freedom.

Too often lost in the shuffle of the grim daily statistics are the names and faces of those directly affected. In those homes, the pandemic has meant death and pain.

The Quigley family has felt that pain.

Read more from columnist Mark Brown here.

8:16 p.m. ‘Windy City Rehab’ stalled again after Alison Victoria, crew quarantined over coronavirus fears

The star of the Chicago-based reality television show “Windy City Rehab” opened up about her money worries and fears about the COVID-19 coronavirus, which she said sidelined her and her crew for 14 days in March.

Alison Victoria, whose real name is Alison Gramenos, told the “The John Roa Show” podcast, released Wednesday, that her Los Angeles-based producer fell ill with a suspected case of the virus, and even though a test was “inconclusive,” it threw a wrench into their plans.

She said it happened about three and a half weeks ago, just as they were getting ready to stage a home in Bridgeport.

“He had all the symptoms … he couldn’t come back anymore, and we were around him, so we had to be quarantined for 14 days and it was like my whole world stopped for a moment.”

Reporter Stephanie Zimmermann has the full story.

7:47 p.m. With stores shut, Ulta Beauty furloughs staff

With its 1,200 stores closed across the country because of the coronavirus, Ulta Beauty said Wednesday it is furloughing store and salon workers. The Bolingbrook-based company declined to say how many workers are affected.

Meanwhile, Chicago-based Groupon is furloughing “significant portions” of its sales and sales operations teams, media outlets reported, citing an email from Interim CEO Aaron Cooper. The company could not be reached for comment.

Ulta said its furloughs would take effect April 19 and that it has “every intention of bringing its workforce back when it is safe to do so.” The company said health insurance will continue for those enrolled in that benefit and workers can file for unemployment benefits.

Reporter David Roeder has the full story.

7:20 p.m. Pedestrian traffic in the Loop plummets more than 80%

The Thompson Center plaza sits empty in the Loop on April 1.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Mayor Lightfoot would disapprove, but now would be the perfect time to take a walk through the Loop — it’s practically empty.

New data from the Chicago Loop Alliance shows that pedestrian traffic dropped Tuesday by 81% when compared to the same day last year.

Between March 30 and April 5, 2020, the Loop saw fewer than 250,000 people walking through the neighborhood each day, according to the CLA’s graph. While that may seem like a lot of pedestrians, data from the same week the previous year shows that pedestrian counts on three of those seven days topped 1 million people.

Provided by Chicago Loop Alliance

“There’s no doubt that activity across the city is declining, but when you have a neighborhood like the Loop, with 370,000 workers and tens of millions of annual visitors but only 20,000 residents, a stay at home order hits hard,” said Chicago Loop Alliance President and CEO Michael Edwards.

CLA uses pedestrian counters that monitor movement to gather data. The trackers are located on the east and west sides of State Street from Wacker to Ida B. Wells drives. Additional counters are at Michigan and Wacker, Michigan and Washington, and in the Pedway.

There’s no word yet when the stay-at-home order may be lifted in Chicago, but Edwards said the most important focus of everyone should be to stay home and save lives.

— Alison Martin

6:36 p.m. Some doctors moving away from ventilators for virus patients

NEW YORK — As health officials around the world push to get more ventilators to treat coronavirus patients, some doctors are moving away from using the breathing machines when they can.

The reason: Some hospitals have reported unusually high death rates for coronavirus patients on ventilators, and some doctors worry that the machines could be harming certain patients.

The evolving treatments highlight the fact that doctors are still learning the best way to manage a virus that emerged only months ago. They are relying on anecdotal, real-time data amid a crush of patients and shortages of basic supplies.

Mechanical ventilators push oxygen into patients whose lungs are failing. Using the machines involves sedating a patient and sticking a tube into the throat. Deaths in such sick patients are common, no matter the reason they need the breathing help.

Generally speaking, 40% to 50% of patients with severe respiratory distress die while on ventilators, experts say. But 80% or more of coronavirus patients placed on the machines in New York City have died, state and city officials say.

Read the full report here.

6:04 p.m. Chicago Police Department COVID-19 cases now at 134

Chicago police announced Wednesday 22 more confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the department, raising the number of cases to 134.

Of the cases, 128 are officers and six are civilian employees, Chicago police said.

A total of 180 employees have reported they’ve tested positive for the virus, but the department’s medical section has yet to confirm 46 of those cases, police said.

Get the full report from the Sun-Times staff here.

5:33 p.m. Another chief judge’s office employee at juvenile detention center contracts COVID-19

The Office of the Chicago Judge announced Wednesday another one of its employees tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the number of confirmed cases within that office to 13.

The employee works for the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center and last reported for work March 13, according to a statement from Pat Milhizer, Office of the Chief Judge of the Circuit Court of Cook County spokesperson. The employee was tested April 3 and received the results Tuesday.

The newly confirmed case is at least the second employee at the Juvenile Temporary Detention Center to contract the virus.

Read the full story here.

4:38 p.m. Another 82 die in Illinois from coronavirus as total cases top 15,000

Another 82 people have died from the coronavirus in Illinois as the state continues its path towards a peak, with Wednesday marking the largest number of deaths in a 24-hour period and the highest number of new positive cases; 1,529.

Officials said 82 more people have died, bringing the state’s death total to 462, while the new cases raised the state tally of positive coronavirus cases to 15,078.

The virus also spread to another county in Illinois, as it’s now confirmed in 78 of 102 counties.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker outlined the state’s testing capacity, which has greatly expanded since the outbreak began in late January. Pritzker has said his goal is to run 10,000 tests a day.

As of Wednesday afternoon, more than 75,000 people had been tested. But the governor has said the state is “not where we need to be.”

Despite Illinois-based Abbott Laboratories promising to send the state rapid-response COVID-19 machines that could provide 88,000 tests per month, Pritzker said the federal government has “waylaid” them to private entities, such as private hospitals and labs.

“Unfortunately, it is our understanding now that the federal government redirected most of these early tests to private systems without our state input about where the tests would make the most impact,” the governor said.

Read the full story from Tina Sfondeles.

4:15 p.m. U.S. jobless claims report Thursday could hit 7 million or higher

The government is set to report another shocking level of unemployment claims Thursday even after nearly 10 million people applied for benefits in the previous two weeks because of business shutdowns from the coronavirus.

The number will likely keep increasing, in part because many states are still clearing out backlogs of applications for unemployment aid. And with more companies running through their cash cushions as the virus-related shutdowns persist, they are resorting to layoffs to save money.

Read the full story.

3:10 p.m. Walgreens suspends ‘cash back’ at the register due to coronavirus

A sign posted at a Walgreens at 75th and State streets said cash back was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
A sign posted at a Walgreens at 75th and State streets said cash back was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak.
Sun-Times staff

Walgreens has temporarily stopped offering customers the option to get “cash back” at the register during a purchase to limit the handling of money in order to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

“Many of our stores have an ATM available if customers would like to make a cash withdrawal. We apologize for any inconvenience,” Walgreens spokeswoman Margaret Sheehan said.

Several other stores in the area such as Mariano’s and Jewel continue to offer cash back to their customers.

A representative for CVS didn’t return a message seeking comment.

— Mitch Dudek

2:30 p.m. Chicago imposes curfew on liquor sales

Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Wednesday imposed a 9 p.m. curfew for all liquor sales in Chicago to prevent people from congregating outside those stores, which could lead to community spread of the coronavirus.

At a Wednesday news conference, Lightfoot said the city is “not messing around with this” and has empowered police and city inspectors to issue fines and shutdown orders.

She thanked liquor store owners for their “unqualified support for this measure,” but added: “Far too many have been congregating at stores that sell liquor.”

The mayor already had hinted at a possible curfew earlier this week after outlining a sweeping plan to bridge a racial divide tied to the pandemic that mirrors the life expectancy gap between black and white Chicagoans: 72 percent of city residents who have died from the virus are African American.

At the time, the mayor promised increased surveillance of groceries and convenience stores to enforce the social distancing requirement that patrons remain at least six feet apart.

Read the full story from reporter Fran Spielman.

2:05 p.m. COVID-19 filling half of Stroger Hospital beds, and ‘crunch time’ still a month away

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle said Wednesday half of the patients at Stroger Hospital are being treated for coronavirus, and the county’s finances face an uncertain future because of efforts to stem the spread of the pandemic.

Though the county faces “tremendous financial challenges,” Preckwinkle wouldn’t say if that would mean layoffs for any county workers.

“Crunch time for us I think is May, and my financial staff is working very hard to figure out where we are financially and what projections are for revenue and expenses and beyond,” Preckwinkle said.

The county’s flagship hospital currently has 200 patients and about half are being treated for the virus, Preckwinkle said during a conference call with the National Association of Counties.

Read the full story from reporter Rachel Hinton.

1:30 p.m. Coronavirus pandemic is bringing plastic back

Just weeks ago, cities and even states across the U.S. were busy banning straws, limiting takeout containers and mandating that shoppers bring reusable bags or pay a small fee as the movement to eliminate single-use plastics took hold in mainstream America.

What a difference a pandemic makes.

In a matter of days, hard-won bans to reduce the use of plastics — and particularly plastic shopping sacks — across the U.S. have come under fire amid worries about the virus clinging to reusable bags, cups and straws.

Governors in Massachusetts and Illinois have banned or strongly discouraged the use of reusable grocery bags. Oregon suspended its brand-new ban on plastic bags this week, and cities from Bellingham, Washington, to Albuquerque, New Mexico, have announced a hiatus on plastic bag bans as the coronavirus rages.

Add to that a rise in takeout and a ban on reusable cups and straws at the few coffee stores that remain open, and environmentalists worry COVID-19 could set back their efforts to tackle plastic pollution for years.

“People are scared for their lives, their livelihood, the economy, feeding their loved ones, so the environment is taking a back seat,” said Glen Quadros, owner of the Great American Diner & Bar in Seattle.

Click here to read the full report.

12:40 p.m. Chicago firefighters on edge after first COVID-19 death in their ranks

Chicago Fire Department brass on Wednesday — one day after the death of a firefighter from the coronavirus — spoke about the anxiety of dealing with a foe, which unlike fire, you can’t just douse with water.

Battalion Chief James O’Donnell said he became wrought with anxiety this week as he watched firefighters quickly get dressed in protective gear to answer a call.

“I was scared for them. There’s nothing I can do. I can’t say ‘Put a hose here. Put a ladder there.’ They’re walking into this environment that’s invisible,” O’Donnell said of the microscopic virus. “It’s a horrible feeling, the unknown, it’s the unknown that’s scary.”

Deputy District Chief Brian McKermitt said firefighters may be concerned about contracting the virus, but they’re still ready to serve.

Read the full story from reporter Mitch Dudek.

11:53 a.m. Fourth Chicago city worker dies of COVID-19

Another city employee has died from the coronavirus — this time a machinist foreman at the Department of Fleet and Facilities Management.

The name, age and work location of the employee was not immediately known. The death was confirmed by union leaders. City Hall refused to comment on the death.

The employee of the department known around City Hall as “2FM” is a member of Machinist Union Local 126. He is the fourth city employee known to have died from the coronavirus.

Read the full story.

10:09 a.m. Toni Preckwinkle self-isolating after member of security detail contracts COVID-19

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is self-isolating after a member of her protection detail contracted COVID-19, her office announced Wednesday morning.

The member of her detail was last in the Cook County Building and in a vehicle operated by the security team on March 27, Preckwinkle said in the statement.

“My thoughts and prayers are with my colleague and their entire family during this challenging time,” she said.

Preckwinkle said she has no signs or symptoms of the coronavirus, but will self-isolate until the end of April 10 “in an abundance of caution, and to follow public health guidance.”

Crews have performed a deep cleaning of the affected areas on the 5th floor of 118 N. Clark St. and the vehicle, she said.

Read the full story from David Struett here.

8:58 a.m. More auto insurance companies are offering refunds as Illinois’ roads empty

Geico is reducing auto and motorcycle insurance premiums by 15%, becoming the latest provider to take into account reduced driving because of the pandemic.

Customers will get a credit when their policies renew between April 8 and Oct. 7, Geico said Tuesday. It said the credit also will apply to new policies sold during that period.

The average credit should be about $150 per auto policy and $30 per motorcycle policy, Geico said. The company estimated its total amount credited would be $2.5 billion.

On Monday, Allstate and American Family announced reduced premiums for auto policies. Recent data from the traffic analytics firm INRIX shows miles driven in the Chicago area are down about 50% from before the pandemic.

Read more about the auto insurance industry’s refund offers from David Roeder and Stephanie Zimmerman.

7:50 a.m. The numbers that tell the story: Our coronavirus data tracking

As the state, nation and world contends with the exponential spread of the novel coronavirus COVID-19, our newsroom is committed to telling the human stories behind the global crisis — but we also recognize that battling a pandemic is, in many ways, a numbers game.

On our Coronavirus Data page, you’ll find a collection of graphs, charts and maps tracing the spread of the virus, tracking test results and plotting the impact on individual counties. Check back daily for updated totals.

Is there a data set we’re missing that would help inform your understanding of the coronavirus and its spread? Send us a note at audience@suntimes.com, and we’ll investigate.

See the latest reports in our Coronavirus Data section.

6:41 a.m. Health care workers describe challenges of working in essential PPE

Those N95 masks hurt.

To work, they must be worn tight. Within 20 minutes, the straps pinch your ears and the mask starts digging into your nose.

The masks need a tight seal to keep the coronavirus out. Doctors and nurses at Mount Sinai Hospital test their masks by reading aloud while saccharine is sprayed in their faces. If they taste sweetness through the mask, they’re dead — or they might be, if that mist were coronavirus droplets instead. Stubble on men can also throw off a mask’s fit.

Add goggles and gloves and hairnets and protective body coverings, then start treating a patient.

”It gets hot, it gets a little claustrophobic,” said Kimberly Lipetzky, a nurse at Mount Sinai. “I had a couple codes, doing CPR in full gear. Your goggles fog, and you’re trying to navigate this situation while of course performing at peak ability.”

”After an hour it starts getting really uncomfortable,” said nurse Adam Garrison. “It feels like the bridge of your nose is going to disintegrate.”

Read Neil Steinberg’s full report from inside Mount Sinai Hospital.

5:34 a.m. 1 more chief judge’s office employee diagnosed with COVID-19

The Office of the Chief Judge of Cook County announced Tuesday one more employee tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of confirmed cases in that office to twelve.

The employee works for the adult probation department at the Leighton Criminal Court Building and last reported for work on March 18, the chief judge’s office said in a statement.

The areas where the employee worked received a deep cleaning and anyone who came into contact with them is being informed, officials said.

Read the full Sun-Times Wire story here.

5:25 a.m. 15th employee contracts COVID-19 at Cook County Circuit Court Clerk’s office

A 15th employee at the Cook County Circuit Court clerk’s office has tested positive for COVID-19.

The employee worked in the traffic division on the lower level of the Daley Center, and last worked March 24, according to a statement from Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County.

The person has been self-quarantined at home and is monitoring themselves for any coronavirus symptoms over the next 14 days, the statement said.

The first cases of the coronavirus in the clerk’s office were reported March 25.


New Cases


Analysis & Commentary

7:47 p.m. Slashing city spending would be inane at a time when Chicagoans need government most

The coronavirus pandemic is wreaking gale force damage on Chicago’s municipal finances. It will be months before the city can even guess at the full wreckage and costs.

Given such utter uncertainty — and the likelihood that it will take a federal recovery effort on the scale of the Marshall Plan to put cities, states and the country back on their feet — we urge Mayor Lori Lightfoot to continue to lean into this fight. We support her determination to avoid layoffs and furloughs.

We frankly can’t understand the curious scolds, already shaking their fingers, who fail to understand that this is a crisis beyond the ability of any city to manage through the normal budgetary process.

A fully functioning local government is no luxury when a deadly virus is sweeping across the land, forcing Gov. J.B. Pritzker to issue a statewide stay-at-home order and the closings of thousands of businesses.

Read the full editorial from the Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board.

12:40 p.m. No room for the blame game during COVID-19 pandemic

At times when individuals and society as a whole feel out of control, isolated and fearful, we often look for someone to blame.

One only needs to look at the history of the 1930s when one of the most extreme forms of “the blame game” took place. Hitler and the Nazi party faulted Jews, people with disabilities, Roma and Sinti, and those deemed “undesirable” for the dire economic, political and social challenges facing Germany.

Most citizens in Nazi Germany looked for a scapegoat, a rationalization for their fear and uncertain future. They remained silent as they witnessed the persecution and discrimination of their neighbors being ostracized and dehumanized through the power of hateful language and rhetoric.

In our current world, health and safety threats from the pandemic, lost jobs, economic tragedy, canceled events, “shelter in place” orders and a palpable sense of unease are creating another “blame game” and backlash against Asian Americans and Jews.

Read the full commentary from Marcy L. Larson, VP for marketing, communications and business development at the Illinois Holocaust Museum and Education Center.

12:15 p.m. When white America catches a cold, black America catches pneumonia

Every few years, America catches a nasty “cold” that afflicts untold damage on its communities and citizenry. These colds aren’t always pathological, and they manifest in different forms, but the carnage they wreak on our nation’s most vulnerable is always staggering.

In 2005, this cold took the form of one of the costliest hurricanes on record, slamming into Louisiana and Texas and leaving $125 billion in damage in its wake. A few years later, we suffered as a nation from the Great Recession, which was brought on by the collapse of the housing market and further decimated the already waning middle class. And in the latter part of the 2010s, we have lived through a scourge of mass shootings that have left virtually no part of the country untouched.

These colds have impacted all Americans, but it is always the most vulnerable who fair the worst by far, particularly when it comes to the black community.

Read the full commentary from U.S. Rep. Bobby L. Rush.

10:10 a.m. Chicago families prepare for virtual Passover seders

Around the globe on Wednesday evening, Jews at Passover seders will ask the traditional question, “Why is this night different from all other nights?” The answer on this coronavirus pandemic Passover, with everyone on lockdown, is that Jews are marking the exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt in new ways.

“Try to enjoy the blessings of the holiday, despite the difficult circumstances, being aware that just like the Israelites in the wilderness, we don’t know how long this will last,” said Rabbi Michael Weinberg of Temple Beth Israel in Skokie.

The stay-at-home edict hit just as I was wrapping up covering the March 17 Illinois primary here, so I never made it back to Washington. Right now, the Sun-Times Washington Bureau is the dining room table in the home of my sister, Neesa, in Highland Park, where I am staying put for now as this COVID-19 disaster unfolds.

We’re doing Zoom seders this year. We’ve been invited to a few: my pals in Washington; my sister’s friends in Highland Park, and, of course, we will drop by the family seder hosted by cousins Myron and Carol Taxman in Boynton Beach, Florida. We are likely to Zoom into several, with iPads, iPhones and laptops set on the table along with the traditional seder plate.

Read more from columnist Lynn Sweet.

6:20 a.m. If the mayor says she needed to get her hair done, she needed to get it done

Are we for real?

On a day when Mayor Lori Lightfoot has to tell the world that while blacks make up 30% of the population in this city, they account for 72% of the deaths from this coronavirus pandemic, we wanted to talk about why she got her hair done?

Apparently, this was deemed a public concern given that our mayor has been aggressive about asking us to stay home.

And in some minds, it is hypocritical for the mayor to get a haircut when barbershops and hair salons are shut down under a stay-at-home order.

What is it that we are supposed to chant?

“Stay Home. Save Lives.”

But I wanted to throw my shoe at the TV screen when reporters questioned the mayor about her “do” during Monday’s press briefing.

The question was not only asked but also dwelled upon.

And I cringed as I watched the mayor defend fussing with her hair.

Read the full column from Mary Mitchell.

6:00 a.m. How to avoid a national voting disaster on Nov. 3

Democracy is facing a test it can’t afford to fail.

Illinois and the nation need to get serious — right now — about holding a reliable election on Nov. 3.

No one is sure how the COVID-19 pandemic will progress. As one very worried local election official told us, “We have no idea what the situation will look like on Nov. 3.”

But unlike primary elections that some states have delayed — and which Illinois barely got in under the wire of responsible behavior — the national presidential election cannot be postponed. It must be held on schedule. And that means beginning preparations now for a worst-case scenario in every state.

Within a matter of weeks, it will be too late.

Read the full editorial here.